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February 18, 2010

Cool stuff on Peabody Conservatory's calendar

As I've pointed out before, most weeks bring lots of interesting music from Peabody Conservatory faculty and students. Even as the campus is flooded with prospective students for audition week,  there are several noteworthy musical events going on.

On Thursday, the Peabody Concert Orchestra has its make-up date for the program squashed by the recent snow. Hajime Teri Murai conducts a hefty program of Berlioz' "Le Corsaire," Joan Tower's "Made in America" and Shostakovich's Sixth at 4 p.m. (This one is free, and so is the open rehearsal at 2:30.)

There's action off-campus over the weekend (7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday), when Peabody Chamber Opera offers a production of Conrad Susa's fascinating "Transformations" at the Theatre Project. The 1973 work is based on the poetry collection of the same name by

Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Sexton, who took her own life in 1974. The provocative verses provide sometimes funny, sometimes dark retellings of several of Grimms fairy tales, which Susa treats with an imaginative mix of musical styles. The new production is staged by Jennifer Blades (familiar to local audiences for her dynamic singing in a variety of venues) and conducted by the exceptional JoAnn Kulesza, music director of Peabody's opera department. The eight-member cast includes Margaret Finnegan (pictured here, photo courtesy of the Peabody Institute) as the Anne Sexton character.

Back at the Peabody campus on Sunday (4 p.m.), the engaging organist Donald Sutherland offers

a wide-ranging program that features the Brass Roots Quintet, with works by the likes of Giovanni Gabrieli, Max Reger, Richard Strauss, Malcolm Arnold and Astor Piazzolla.

To give you a taste of Susa's "Transformations," here's a clip of the Hansel and Gretel scene from a 2007 Maryland Opera Studio production:

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:42 AM | | Comments (2)


The more I read these posts, the more I am convinced of the great stuff hapenning in the music schools. I attended recently an Torke / Enescu / Schuller / Varese program at the UMD school of music; who else would put on a program like that? Plus the Manhattan School of Music recently produced Fauré's "Pénélope."

I guess the schools are not so dependent on conservative subscribers and patrons. TIM

Here are some second thoughts. For a long time music schools were known as "conservatories"; in fact, many still are. The reason, if I understand it correctly, is that one of the roles of these conservatories was, well, to "conserve", to preserve the music of the past since most of the music played in the 18, 19, and begining of the 20th centuries (less so here, perhaps) was contemporary; please correct if I am wrong.

How ironic, then, that today's music schools present these adventurous programs! Talk about reversal of fortune!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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